November 24, 2011, 1:02 PM

Thanksgiving Day online sales rise 39% over last year

By the time Thanksgiving Day was over, online sales were up 39% over last year.

Lead Photo

Sales on Thanksgiving Day 2011 versus past two years. Source: IBM Benchmark

Before and after sitting down to their Thanksgiving dinners, millions of consumers sat down with their computers, tablets and smartphones to take advantage of the many specials that online retailers offered yesterday, a day when most bricks-and-mortar stores were closed and e-retailers largely had a clear field to sell to holiday shoppers.

Millions found deals they could not resist on the web, and by the end of the day North American online retail sales were up a hefty 39% over last year, according to the IBM Benchmark monitoring service, which tracks sales from the web sites of 500 leading U.S. retailers.

While IBM does not estimate dollar sales, comScore Inc. estimated that U.S. consumers bought $400 million online on Thanksgiving Day 2010. A 39% increase would put yesterday's sales at over $550 million.

Heavy use of mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets like the iPad, were a big part of Thanksgiving Day online shopping. 15.2% of traffic came from mobile devices, up from 6.45% last Thanksgiving, and mobile devices accounted for 11.09% of purchases, well ahead of 4.25% last year, IBM says. "For the smarter consumer that is using their mobile device more and more to shop online, those retailers that developed a great experience for those users, definitely look to be reaping the rewards," says John Squire chief strategy officer at IBM SmarterCommerce, a unit that includes analytics firm Coremetrics, which IBM acquired last year..

Squire predicted early in the day that sales would die down during the afternoon, then pick up again at night. “Once families finish that last piece of pie, we expect to see a similar trend as last year. The post-pie purchasing will accelerate as the smart online retailers focus their promotions and deals on the earliest of the early bird Black Friday shopper.”

Squire's prediction of activity increasing in the evening hours was borne out by traffic data from content delivery network provider Akamai Technologies, which reported a peak of 1.86 million page views per minute around 10 p.m. Eastern time last night from North American consumers to the sites of 270 global retailers. Earlier in the day, traffic peaked around 11 a.m. at 1.12 million page views per minute, then fell below 1 million page views per minute through the afternoon as millions sat down to their holiday dinners. Traffic began to surge again around 6 p.m. Eastern time., and was at 1.73 million page views per minute around 8 p.m. Eastern time.

Online marketing firm ChannelAdvisor reported 15% year-over-year sales increases for its client retailers as of 3 p.m. Eastern yesterday. Sales for client retailers on Amazon.com's marketplace were up 27% and on eBay 7%, reports CEO Scot Wingo. He says overall sales on online marketplaces are up 14% over Thanksgiving Day 2010 and sales stemming from searching engines up 13%, but sales coming from comparison shopping engines are only ahead 1%.

Consumers likely were responding in part to the bombardment of holiday e-mail offers from online retailers this Thanksgiving Day.

For example, Amazon.com Inc. sent out an e-mail promotion this morning touting its Black Friday deals available now on the site of the No. 1 retailer in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide. To add urgency, Amazon is offering Lightning Deals, good only for a limited time, and include a ticker next to each of these offers showing how much longer consumers have to buy at the sale price.

The Lands’ End unit of Sears Holding Corp. sent out an e-mail this morning offering 30% off all items through Monday, and including a promotion code (Drumstick) that gets the consumer free shipping to boot. Outdoor gear and apparel retailer Sierra Trading Post is offering an extra 20-25% off sales items today only. Sears is No. 7 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide and Sierra Trading Post No. 88.

And web-only electronics retailer Newegg Inc. planned to bring its offers where many consumers planned to be last night and in the early hours of ths morning—the shopping mall. The e-retailer said it would deploy trucks in several Los Angeles-area malls carrying billboards displaying two-dimensional QR codes that consumers can scan to access deals from mobile devices. Newegg representatives were equipped with smartphones and tablet computers consumers could use to access the deals, for those that didn’t have their own handsets along.

"We want to make holiday shopping as painless as possible for our customers," said Bernard Luthi, senior vice president of marketing and web management at Newegg. "Why wait in long lines and deal with overcrowded stores when you can shop online? Shoppers can come to Newegg.com to get Black Friday deals across every product category for savings on HDTVs, video games, laptops, cameras, home appliances and more."

Newegg, No. 12 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, is the latest online retailer to bring its web offerings to consumers in shopping malls and physical locations, following the lead of Walmart.com, which has installed web-connected kiosks at two Southern California shopping malls, and eBay Inc., which has opened a temporary “pop-up” store in London where holiday shoppers can access deals on eBay.com. Walmart.com, the e-commerce arm of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., is No. 6 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

 

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